Letting Things Slide

I started this blog a little over two years ago now. My intentions in its regard have shifted more than once since then. It’s been a place for me to share work in progress, thoughts on writing, and thoughts on life/politics/depression/etc. It’s been a good thing, I think. The last few months I’ve let it slide. It’s been an interesting time of life for me. I’ve posted before about that. It has prompted a good deal of introspection in me. I haven’t varied in what I want in life. I still have the same grand desire to write as I did two years ago when I started this. Circumstances have changed though, and that has prompted new directions and methods for me to accomplish those goals. It has also introduced new goals in other areas of my life. I’ve explored different career avenues, always with the thought that my new path would be something to make my life better while I continue to work on writing.

I’ve grown up a bit. I went to the dentist for the first time in 3 years. I can now do office talk and know about company family days (though I must admit I still don’t really understand either). Most people I know are concerned now with things like health insurance, sick days, buying property, and bed times. I understand these things now, at least I understand why people care about them. When I was younger these things were silly nonsense that distracted from important things like following your dreams and living in the moment. They’re not silly. I’m grown up enough now to say that and mean it. There’s a certain charm to a lifestyle of stability and 401ks and summer bbqs. Like I say, I’ve grown up.

There’s a problem though. Two years ago, right around the time I started this blog, my wife and I were talking about the future. I told her then that my greatest fear was complacency. I worried that I’d someday get a 9-5 job and we’d buy a car and I’d finally have health insurance and life wouldn’t be hard anymore. I worried that the lack of hardship would pacify me, and though I would still have the desire to write, it wouldn’t be my top priority. I’d be complacent to live a normal, average life, and I would never accomplish anything great. I still have that fear, but like I said, I’ve grown up.

It’s funny how often ‘grown up’ is synonymous with ‘given up.’ It’s not really. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding perpetuated by people who have given up and blame it on something as silly as aging. I’ve grown up a bit. I don’t resent my job even though it’s not exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I understand it now. I understand the social contract. And over the last few months of depression and introspection and laziness and hardship I’ve learned something about myself; I’m not ready to give up.

The only thing stopping me from writing is me choosing to use my time otherwise. A job is a necessary evil because it is necessary to live in a shelter and eat somewhat decent food and to see Ira Glass tell stories accompanied by two dancers. And you know, it’s not really that evil. It’s just work. It sometimes gets in the way of what we really want to do, but it’s not evil. In the end, it’s really just another excuse.

We all make excuses to not do the things we know will get us the things we want. We make them for good reasons. We need to work 40 hours a week to survive. We need downtime. Some movies and tv shows drop off Netflix after a certain time. We will get around to it when we’ve got enough money to afford us a little break. These are all excuses I’ve used in the past months, and they are all valid excuses in a given moment. They grow, though, from excuses to crutches, and before you know it you’re letting your blog die and not doing any work on the book you say you’re writing and getting too much of your sense of accomplishment from video game achievements. But I’ve grown up. It’s taken me 28 years, but I’ve come to a decision.

I want to be a writer, and it’s what I’m going to do. From now on, it’s going to be my priority. It’s going to be what I do. I’m going to start posting more regularly on here. I’m going to share my experiences with writing. I’m going to share updates on my writing progress. Sometimes I will still share things that have nothing to do with writing because those things are important too.

To start, I need to make some apologies and amends. I have two friends who released books in the last few months, and I should have helped promote them. Not because it’s my job or I owe them or anything. I should have done reviews and encouraged other people to buy their books because they are friends. And because they are writers and I know what it is to put your work out there and not get a response. So, it doesn’t make up for my lack of activity, but I am going to start my new/old blog with a couple reviews. If you want to get a jump on them without waiting for a review, I’ll add links below where you can get them.

Finally, while I hope everyone sees this blog and shares it and people the world over love it and publishers try to stalk me and shower me with lavish gifts to just please let them give me money to write a book, I realize that’s not very practical. The purpose of writing something like this is to share it, but in a way it’s more to share it with myself. I lost sight of that for a bit. I forgot how important it was to me to write these posts, even if no one reads them. So if it’s not your thing, that’s fine. It’s my thing, and it’s time I reminded myself.

Coming Up:

Book Review: Acea and the Seven Ancient Wonders by Kyle Shoop

Making Up Horoscopes

I discovered the other day an assignment I had done for a poetry class. The assignment was to create a new Zodiac sign and write a horoscope for it. I present to you, Arugula.

Leafy green aruglua plant

Photo by Eric Bear Albrecht [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Characteristics of an Arugula:

Arugulas are healthy, earthy, and have a strong will to do what is right. They love the natural world and strive for harmony in their lives and actions. Arugulas love strongly and seek to better the lives of those around them, often with great success.

On the other hand, arugulas’ strong will often puts them at odds with others, and their desire to do the right thing can lead to a false sense of superiority. Arugulas are often tasteless to the point of boorishness, and though they naturally exert a strong influence on those around them, they can be heavy handed and overbearing. In addition, arugulas’ earthy nature may lend them a pleasant odor on first contact, but can quickly grow stale and moldy.

Horoscope:

Storms darken the horizon and may easily overwhelm you. Remember, snow is a natural part of the Earth. However, just because your life is drenched and stormy, it does not excuse you from bathing. A sudden frost is about to ruin your love life. My advice: Try adding some croutons to your salad, preferably garlic. Newly single people can afford to have horrendous breath. Maybe go watch The Hobbit and root for Smaug this time.

Watch for shooting stars. If you see one, run. Run far far away and contemplate the nature of a vast universe that is constantly trying to destroy you. Pray, if it makes you feel better. Nothing can save you in the end.

Not Quite Christmas (The Real Best Time of Year)

The Holiday Season is almost upon us. I personally really like this time of year, from September all the way through the New Year. I like the creepy Halloween stuff, but I like the time after Halloween just as much, and I’m referring to more than just the traditional American Thanksgiving and Christmas stuff. These few weeks between Halloween and Turkey Fever get short shrift usually. At best they’re ignored. But I like it. I like the days getting shorter and the air getting colder. I like the hints of snow and promise of misery. Of course, by the second week of January the magic has worn off and it’s all dirty slush and inconvenient ice. For now though, it’s a time of constant change, and I like that.

For me, this time of year is a promise of things to come. My life is in that weird place after adolescence but before ‘real’ adulthood. (Of course, I’m developing a sneaking suspicion that ‘real’ adulthood never really arrives until you’re the oldest person alive and no one is around to tell you how young you still are.) I haven’t got a solid career yet, or children. I still have friends that like to go out at 11pm on Friday night. I still join them occasionally, though I usually regret it. I’m living the life of a full grown-up without all the resources. I don’t have to live on ramen noodles, but I still can’t afford health insurance. Basically, things are unsettled, much like the early November season that can’t decide if it’s Winter or Fall or how long either will last.

The promise, though, is there. The promise that soon all the trees will be lit with twinkling, artificial life and the snow will be soft and cold but not freezing as it falls. The promise that comfort is only a steaming mug away. It’s that promise I cling to. It’s honestly the best part of life. Anticipation is often greater than the reward, though I don’t think that diminishes the rewards. I’m still young enough that I can anticipate my life ahead. I can plan for better things, though I’ll have to slog through some blackened slush to get there. And when I do reach things like stability and regular dental visits, I’m sure it won’t be nearly as lovely as I have it in my head. Not that healthy teeth are a bad thing, but I’m sure I’ll still have unattained desires and worrisome trivialities and the kids will be sending the world to hell with their darned techno-folk music and silver jumpsuits and AI partners. Of course, that means I also get to have my anticipation of better things to come.

The lovely thing about this time of year is that it goes by so quickly. Soon it will be the Holiday Season for real with its Christmas Wars and Hobbitses and travel plans. Then we’ll have piles of dirty ice in all the parking lots and then the lovely green of Spring. Soon, the anticipation will be gone, but for a few brief days I get the thrill of imagining all the fun and joy laid out ahead of me. And I’m okay with that.

I Am A Gamer, and I Oppose #Gamergate Because It Is Wrong

I won’t add many of my own words to this. I’ve not been very active about it. I tweet articles sometimes or retweet others’ thoughts. Basically, it has come down to this: For those aware of what’s been happening in gaming lately, supporting #Gamergate and not opposing it are both immoral acts. That is not to say they are equally immoral. It’s one thing to say ISIS has some good points and another to actually behead people, but they are both wrong. If you believe comparing #Gamergate to ISIS is hyperbole, you might be right but just barely because at this point #Gamergate is a terrorist organization. True, they haven’t actually murdered anyone yet, but the tactics of threatening and fearmongering are remarkably similar for a group of people claiming to be concerned with “ethics.” Anyway, I won’t say more about them myself. Below are links to articles more comprehensive and eloquent than anything I have to say. The purpose of this post is for me personally to take a stand. I want anyone who reads this, anyone who knows me to know, I am a gamer, and I oppose #Gamergate because it is wrong.

 

Links:

If you only read one of these, make sure it’s Felicia Day’s. She shows so clearly exactly the problem with the #Gamergate movement while expressing her usual, positive call to action attitude where so many others, myself included, can only speak negatively regarding this.

The Only Thing I Have To Say About Gamer Gate by Felicia Day

Why #Gamergaters Piss Me The F*** Off by Chris Kluwe

Report from the Salt Lake Tribune regarding Anita Sarkeesian cancelling her speaking engagement at Utah State University after receiving a mass-shooting threat.

From The Guardian: Gamergate is loud, dangerous and a last grasp at cultural dominance by angry white men

How To Boycott John Scalzi For Speaking Against #Gamergate

Rape and death threats are terrorizing female gamers. Why haven’t men in tech spoken out? by Brianna Wu

And finally, a report from ThinkProgress, which I admit isn’t the best source for objective news, but they’ve done a good job with the facts about the backlash against Felicia Day. Actress Felicia Day Opens Up About GamerGate Fears, Has Her Private Details Exposed Minutes Later

Ferguson In My Back Yard

So this is a thing that happened close to where I live: “Lawyer: Autopsy shows Saratoga Springs man shot from behind.” In case you didn’t read that on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 a young black man carrying a “Samurai-type sword” was shot and killed by police officers in Saratoga Springs, Utah. An autopsy of the young man, Darrien Hunt, showed that he was shot exclusively in the back, which seems to be completely against the police description of the incident. This of course brings to mind the equally tragic shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.

For those of you not familiar with Utah, it is a predominately white, Mormon/Christian, conservative old timey sort of place. Yes, we do have our diversity in small doses scattered around the cabinet. I even have one black and two gay friends. Diversity!

The reason I point this out is to note that issues like what’s happened recently in Ferguson, MO don’t really hit home here in Utah. I feel outrage. I feel disgust. I feel sad. But I never feel like stuff like that is real. It’s all stuff that happens somewhere else. I’m mad it happens anywhere, but I’m very distanced from it. I know a lot of that isn’t just geographic. Hell, I’d be willing to wager all my money that if I went to a Panda Express with a sword strapped to my back the worst I’d get is turned away from the restaurant and maybe have my sword confiscated.

I once had my bag searched in the airport because I had gone camping and forgotten to remove my knife before flying to Florida. And don’t think I was a Wally Cleaver white boy at the time. I hadn’t shaved in a week, my hair was long and messy, and I was wearing what could have been a pretty decent unabomber costume. When the TSA found my knife after I had just told them I didn’t have any weapons with me you know what they said? “Do you want to mail this home or leave it with us?” That was it. I left my knife and flew through the sky like a dove.

Point is, I wasn’t even worried when the TSA searched my bag or when they found a dangerous weapon I had just lied about. Sure it was unintentional, but I had no reason to worry. I’m white. So when I hear about young black men being killed, it bothers me but it doesn’t have the full weight of reality. I think a lot of people in Utah feel that way. When 90% of everyone you interact with is white, racial inequality is something you have to make an effort to see and understand. It’s not something you notice every day, even when you see it. Then a young, black man is shot in the back and killed in my metaphorical back yard, and suddenly it’s real. It’s here, in my life. And it’s something I can’t take for granted anymore.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not making any statement of guilt regarding the specific incident with Darrien Hunt. I don’t know who the officers involved are. I don’t know anything about them. I will make a guess though that they don’t see themselves as racist. I will guess that they were a bit freaked out and acted more out of fear than livid, burning hate. I will guess that they have families and friends and colleagues who respect and love them and support them right now, and I will guess that they deserve that support. Finally, I will also guess that the reason they shot a man in the back has a little to do with the sword he was carrying and a lot to do with the color of his skin. And that’s the real dangerous canker we find in our society today. As individuals, it’s not our fault. It is, however, our responsibility to fix it because whether we see it or not, it’s part of our lives.

Book Review: Lud-in-the-Mist

I’ve wanted to do a review of this fantastic novel for some time, but I never really knew how to start. This review says everything I’ve wanted to, and does so in a particularly eloquent way.

Naturally, an Annotation

The first couple of pages of Hope Mirrlees’s novel are filled with deceptively charming descriptions of the quaint and picturesque Lud-in-the-Mist, a city of merchants at the confluence of two rivers, the Dapple and the Dawl, in the country of Dorimare. In the very first paragraph, though, we are told, rather matter-of-factly, that “towards the west, in striking contrast with the pastoral sobriety of the central plain, the aspect of the country became, if not tropical, at any rate distinctly exotic. Nor was this to be wondered at, perhaps; for beyond the Debatable Hills (the boundary of Dorimare in the west) lay Fairyland.” The surname of its protagonist, Nathaniel Chanticleer (= Rooster), Mayor of Lud-in-the-Mist, is a further hint that we’re in fable territory. We also discover that the Dapple has its origins in Fairyland. But very soon, the narrative takes a subtly menacing and sinister turn: Nathaniel Chanticleer, for…

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Depression, Suicide, and Robin Williams: Hopping on the Bandwagon

So earlier this week Robin Williams killed himself. That was a shock to most people. It was a shock to me. It made a lot of people think and talk about depression. It made me think. It made me want to say something, but I didn’t know what. I read this article in Slate today, and it opened me up. There was one idea that kept popping up in my head in a very inarticulated fashion. The article addresses it perfectly:

“There were a lot of comments on Twitter about how much Robin Williams was loved and what a shame that he didn’t know it. I didn’t know Robin Williams, but I bet he did know that he was loved. I know that I am loved. Maybe not on a Robin Williams scale, but I have friends and family who would do anything for me, and I absolutely know this. But there comes a point where love does not matter. When things are bad, I don’t care that people love me. All I can see is that I’m a burden, that everything I have ever done is wrong, and that these good people who love me are wrong as well. At my lowest, love cannot save me. Hope, prayers, daily affirmations—none of these can save me. Therapy and medicine are what matter, and those don’t always work either.”

My situation isn’t nearly as dramatic as that of many people with depression. I don’t feel, like the author of the Slate article, that I am a burden to those around me. I have felt similar to the author of this web comic that I never wanted to commit suicide, but sometimes in my life I’ve felt that it wouldn’t be the worst thing if I just got hit by a bus. I don’t want to scare or panic anyone close to me here. I promise I will never kill myself. If anything, I might just disappear one day the way my uncle did. Although I will be kind enough to leave a note. Even then though, I recognize that these things aren’t good solutions to any problem. They’re just not reasonable. Besides, I’d rather keep my family and friends happy.

The thing is though, when you’re depressed or otherwise mentally ill, these things aren’t good enough arguments. I know people love me, even when my brain is fucked up and doesn’t really understand it. I love them too, and I’d never want to hurt them. But sometimes life is just so damn frustrating, and you just want it to be over. Even remembering the joy and love and happiness doesn’t help because you know the problems will be back and life will be shitty again. In the end, suicide isn’t actually about the emotions. It’s a perfectly rational, logical conclusion to a disappointing life. Pain will never end, so why not just end it?

Now, I’ve only become aware of my own dealings with depression within the last year. I don’t know if it’s a thing I’ll have to deal with forever or just temporary for me. I do know a lot of people for whom this is a constant, daily issue. And what I really want to say, to them, to everyone else, and mostly to myself is this: I understand the despair. I understand the desire to be done. I understand the rationality of the decision. And most of all I understand that it’s all bullshit.

A trend in the past few days is the phrase, “Depression lies.” I don’t know about that. I don’t know that life isn’t pointless and frustrating and sometimes awful. I do know that life is important. I know that a life doesn’t belong to just one person. Every action you take has consequences. Suicide is not about you, or it shouldn’t be. You might think you’re a burden on others. You might think they’ll be better of without you. You might be tired of putting up with the drudge that is life. But it doesn’t matter. Because you’re life doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to the people around you, the people who care about you, and ending it WILL put a burden on them. So this is what I have to say: if you are considering suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline here 1-800-273-8255 (US only I’m afraid, but it has counterparts all over the world.) Then, call the people who own your life and ask them first if you’re allowed to end it. I guarantee they won’t be cool with it.